The Royal Blues became the first side to win in European competition at the Santiago Bernabeu since April 2011, but the holders’ 2-0 first-leg lead proved too formidable a hurdle. Christian Fuchs and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar twice gave Schalke the lead in the first period, but Cristiano Ronaldo headed equalisers in response. Karim Benzema netted eight minutes into the second half, before Leroy Sane’s spectacular strike made it 3-3 on the night. Schalke's dreams of qualification were restoked when Huntelaar completed his brace with five minutes left, but it wasn’t to be for Roberto Di Matteo’s heroic troops.
Looking to capitalise on the Real’s recent shaky domestic form, Schalke began confidently. The visitors were on top from the first whistle, with Max Meyer and Huntelaar enjoying early chances, while Benedikt Höwedes comfortably kept Real’s attacking threat at bay. Schalke crowned a dominant opening 20 minutes with a deserved opener as Meyer found Tranquillo Barnetta, whose cross was powered home from inside the box by Fuchs.
The opener rocked the hosts, who responded within five minutes when Ronaldo brilliantly headed a corner past the otherwise untested Timon Wellenreuther. Undeterred, Schalke stuck to their attacking gameplan. After several half-chances, Huntelaar bent a shot onto the angle in the 39th minute, but the Dutchman went one better a minute later, hammering home after Meyer’s shot was spilled by Iker Casillas. Real restored parity for a second time five minutes later, though, with Ronaldo powerfully heading in Fabio Coentrao’s cross.
There was no let-up in the goalscoring after the restart. After only eight minutes of second-half action, Schalke were behind for the first time, with Benzema shimmying his way through the defence and emphatically finishing past a helpless Wellenreuther. Given the end-to-end nature of the match, it was unsurprising when Di Matteo’s men responded within four minutes, European debutant Sane bending a curling effort beyond Casillas.
The sides traded shots from distance after the 70-minute mark, as Real Madrid seemed content to pass their way through the Schalke storm. Not to go down without a fight, Fuchs forced a good save from Casillas with ten minutes left, and when Huntelaar completed his brace with an unstoppable effort in the 84th minute, the Royal Blues could smell qualification. Sane and Höwedes both came agonisingly close as time ticked away, but, despite their history-making efforts, Schalke fell at the last.
Real Madrid CF: Casillas - Arbeloa (Nacho, 83'), Varane, Pepe, Coentrao (Marcelo, 58') - Khedira (Modric, 58'), Kroos, Isco - Bale, Ronaldo, Benzema
FC Schalke 04: Wellenreuther - Höwedes, Matip, Nastasic - Höger (Goretzka, 57'), Fuchs, Neustädter, Barnetta (Uchida, 81') - Meyer, Choupo-Moting (Sane, 29'), Huntelaar
Goals: 0-1 Fuchs 20', 1-1 Ronaldo 25', 2-1 Huntelaar 40', 2-2 Ronaldo 45', 3-2 Benzema 53', 3-3 Sane 57', 3-4 Huntelaar 84'